Cold War Era

Rare footage shows the most impressive line-up of English Electric Canberra aircraft ever

The video in this post is previously unseen RAF Museum Archive footage of different variants of the English Electric Canberra (with special attention to the different training versions) at RAF Cottesmore.

The video in this post is previously unseen RAF Museum Archive footage of different variants of the English Electric Canberra (with special attention to the different training versions) at RAF Cottesmore.

Canberra was the aircraft with the longest service history in the RAF.

A first generation British jet-powered medium bomber, the English Electric Canberra was designed by W. E. W. ‘Teddy’ Petter. It could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber throughout the 1950’s and set a world’s altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430 m) in 1957. 

It all began in 1944 when the Air Ministry issued a requirement for a successor to the de Havilland Mosquito ‘with no defensive armament and a high-altitude capability to evade interceptors’.

After numerous post-war political and economic delays, the initial A.1. prototype (VN499) flew on May 13, 1949 by which time the Ministry had actually pre-ordered 132 production aircraft in various configurations.  According to BAE Systems, the aircraft continued on as the A.1 until it was eventually renamed Canberra in 1950 by the then English Electric Managing Director Sir George Nelson (Australia was the first export customer).

Such was the ease of transition from propeller aircraft into the Canberra that it entered full service with 101 Squadron RAF on May 21, 1951.

The success and adaptability of the design was such that it was built in 27 versions which equipped 35 RAF squadrons and it was exported to more than 15 countries including Australia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Ethiopia, France, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Rhodesia, South Africa, Sweden, Venezuela and West Germany. 

Additionally, 403 ‘Canberras’ were manufactured under licence by Martin (Glen L Martin Company) as the B-57 Canberra, again in several versions.

The Canberra was retired by its first operator (the RAF) 57 years after its first flight after its final mission over Afghanistan in 2006.

Strangely enough, NASA still uses three WB-57 Canberras for research flights. As such, its career continues.

Photo credit: Mike Freer via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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